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News and Speeches

New York Times Schools for Tomorrow Conference


Remarks of Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott
As delivered on September 13, 2012

Good afternoon.  It’s a pleasure to be here and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this conversation.

As a former New York City public school student, now a grandfather of a New York City public school student, I wake up every morning blessed with the fantastic opportunity to lead the country’s largest school system and charged with shaping the destiny of 1.1 million students.

And, I taught kindergarten, so I know firsthand that teaching is the toughest job in the world.

Our teachers’ commitment has been a critical part of the progress our public schools have seen in the last 10 years: Graduation rates, test scores, college readiness – across any metric, our schools and students are improving. And we are proud of that success.

We are also far from done.

The Mayor and I believe, and the research shows, that the most important factor in a student’s success is a highly effective teacher in every classroom.

That’s why in New York City we have made teacher quality and support our priority.

First, we must recruit, reward and retain the best teachers. That’s why we’ve raised base salaries and continue to propose ways to attract the best and brightest.

Today, I would like to share – for the first time – results from our collaboration with the UFT on a teacher effectiveness pilot.

This pilot ran alongside our existing rating system, and aligns with the new state law requiring a rating system with four performance levels: highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective.

  • When we started our pilot with 600 teachers in 2010, 5% of the teachers were rated highly effective, 45% were found to be effective.
  • Now, 11% are highly effective and 49% effective.
  • And across all categories, from the weakest to the strongest – we saw teacher improvement.

It’s time to bring these results to every student in every school through a citywide evaluation deal.

Let’s guarantee that quality in Tribeca is the same as quality in Tremont.

Teacher effectiveness will no longer be a matter of opinion.

We have established evaluation standards for high quality teaching that has proven to increase student achievement.

We are giving teachers objective assessments they can use to improve. Everyone can raise their game – from rookie teachers to 30 year veterans of the classroom.

We’ve invested over $25 million dollars, leveraging federal funds from Race to the Top, to get our teachers to the top.

We’ve learned from this pilot that standards work. Teachers can improve and they do.

Today, the pilot is in 215 schools citywide.

Giving 9,000 teachers real time, practical feedback and support so they can excel in the classroom.

Reaching 100,000 students every day.

And here’s what it looks like:

  • Teachers get clear and rigorous expectations aligned with student achievement.
  • Teachers are consistently observed and get meaningful and concrete feedback.
  • Teachers get targeted professional development that’s just right for them.

Three out of four pilot teachers say their student’s academic growth and performance are a reflection of their effectiveness as teachers.

And our principals are on board too. Three out of four of them agree that providing feedback has improved student achievement.

When I visited Principal Danika Lacroix at Young Scholars’ Academy for Discovery and Exploration in Brooklyn, she told me that the pilot has transformed her school.

She and her dedicated teachers focus more on creating a culture of intellectual curiosity for teachers and students.

At the same school, Joyce Knight’s fourth graders were engaged in a lesson on London tied to the summer Olympics.

Just like those athletes, they were diving into exercises, vigorously challenging themselves and each other to answer increasingly complex questions about London’s history and culture.

Just as we believe in the unlimited potential of our students, we also believe in the unlimited potential of our teachers.

We’re identifying and uncovering talent within our teaching corps and creating pathways for leadership opportunities.

We’re encouraging hundreds of teachers across the city to become the next generation of school leaders.

Our rigorous principal training programs prepare standout teachers to take on the challenge to lead a New York City public school.

Some have taken their innovative ideas and energy and created exciting new schools. Kate Burch, a former teacher at Humanities Preparatory Academy is one such leader. As graduate student, her master’s thesis and her passion ultimately became Harvest Collegiate High School. She and a team of exceptional teachers developed the school's mission, curriculum and instructional model.  Harvest opened last week with a 9th grade class of about 130 students.

Groups of teachers like these will position our students to assume their roles as the next generation of leaders for our city and beyond.

The teacher effectiveness pilot has already improved education for 100,000 students.

A robust body of research tells us that this will strengthen their futures.

And, I am proud of this strong beginning, but we have 1 million more promises to keep.

Let’s work together to make high quality teaching and learning a reality for every teacher and every student.

Thank you.  I look forward to hearing from the panel and audience.